Three years ago, August 1, 2014 is known as Black Friday in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. This video provides a forensic analysis of what occurred that day. Will it provide the evidence for war crimes?
Tag Archives: Rafah
Keeping a daily journal of my efforts to return to Gaza helps me retrace my steps. This pilgrimage certainly isn’t easy and my gut tells me the path is just as important as the destination. For previous months, check out my blog posts: September 2014, October 2014, November 2014, December 2014, January 2015, February 2015, March 2015, April 2015 and May 2015. What follows are entries for the month of June 2015.
Day #273 – Communicating about hot button issues (religion, politics, Israel-Palestine) is so challenging. Rethinking my whole approach (especially after reading “The Righteous Mind” by Haidt). Going to write a book review today. Take away message—-we try to convince the “other” person with our rational arguments but the “other” person can’t hear or appreciate rational arguments when his/her opinions originate from intuition. Likewise, our opinions very likely originate from intuition, followed by strategic reasoning. Haidt says that conservatives understand this, but liberals typically don’t. #GoingtoGaza
Day #274 – Thinking electoral politics is for the birds!
Fact No. 1 – Palestinians haven’t had an election in 9 years and the old farts in office don’t seem eager to hold another.
Fact No. 2 – Israeli P.M. Netanyahu wins his election by warning Israelis that the “Arabs are coming to the polls in droves” thus proving Israel is a racist state.
Fact No. 3 – Millions of Palestinians living under occupation can’t vote in Israeli elections despite the fact that Israel has so much control over their lives.
Fact No. 4 – Elections in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, NM, USA run like clockwork but the elected officeholders prove like clockwork that they are corruptible or corrupted.
Fact No. 5 – My generation has screwed things up so royally that future generations will feel the full blunt force trauma of our actions, despite having no voice and no voting power.
I agree with Tracy Chapman — We’re Talking About a Revolution. #GoingtoGaza
Day #275 – News from Gaza. Some militants in Gaza fired something (rockets?) into southern Israel today. No fatalities or damage reported. ISIS claimed responsibility. Hamas has been battling ISIS operatives in Gaza. Tonight Israel’s jets scrambled; lots of noise and several air strikes were reported. No fatalities. I’m thinking of the young children who survived last summer’s assault on Gaza that lasted 51 days. While Bruce Jenner commands too many soundbites and photo spreads documenting his “freedom to be himself/herself” — these Palestinian children have no freedoms and can’t just be innocent kids. What a screwed up universe. #GoingtoGaza
Day #274 – Watching “activists” on FB and Twitter, I’m struck with our ineffectual communication skills. (I include myself.)
1) Some activists refuse to have an exchange with anyone who disagrees with them. “Unfriend” option is so childish.
2) Some activists prefer to lecture or “educate” but are clueless about what others think.
3) Some activists really believe that meaningful change can occur via social media alone, and it sounds like they are stuck on their divans.
Here’s a book I hope activists will pick up. If we want to change the status quo, which I presume we all do, we have to understand the other side. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (2012) #GoingtoGaza
Day #275 – On this day in 1967, Israel launched an attack against Egypt, known today as the Six Day War but to the Palestinians as the Naksah. I wonder how many of my American friends know about the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. #GoingtoGaza
Days #277 – 278 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Zivotofsky family and said they will not get “Israel” marked as the place of birth on their son’s passport. Kennedy’s opinion said that the President has the sole responsibility for recognizing a sovereign nation. Time for Obama to recognize the State of Palestine. #GoingtoGaza
Day #279 – “Confirmation bias” … a new phrase that a psychologist-friend recently taught me. Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. I clearly see it among pro-Israeli activists, pro-Palestinian activists, and with greater scrutiny, I can now see it with myself. We want to find the “facts” to support our world view, and we disregard facts that may negate our world view. This is very interesting stuff…. #GoingtoGaza
Day #280 – Feeling very pleased that over 600 letters have been sent to members of Congress asking them to invite former President Carter to speak about his recent visit to Israel & Palestine. I’m planning to visit Capitol Hill with these signatures once we reach 1000+ letters. Check out the petition here. Add your signature! #GoingtoGaza
Day #281 – Netanyahu and his cabinet are doing everyone a favor by using blunt and vulgar language concerning their real intentions towards the Palestinians. Nothing new, of course, except that they aren’t pretending to hide behind a veneer of reasonableness any longer. Obama is going to find it increasingly difficult to side with the Israelis or pretend to be a peace broker. #GoingtoGaza
Day #282 – Palestinians in Gaza may be blockaded and under Israel’s lethal siege, but they are CONNECTED to the world. Case in point. Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the “Fast Track” bill which many Americans opposed. I waited for news about the vote. I sat in Baltimore about an hour from the Capitol listening to public radio and watching news sites for the results. Finally, my friend in Gaza half way around the world posted a message on Facebook with the good news! The Fast Track bill was defeated! Thank you Internet. Thank you social media! Thank you friends!
Day #283 – As much as I want to return to Gaza, this weekend I’m praying that my young friend in Gaza will exit the Rafah gates when they open for 3 days. He was accepted abroad to pursue graduate studies but Israel has treated him like a prisoner all of his life in Gaza. May Allah protect him in his travels! #GoingtoGaza
Day #284 – Al-hamdulillah! My young friend made it out of Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. He said there were many military checkpoints through the Sinai, and the place looked like a military zone with all of the tanks, etc. But his bus made it to the Cairo Airport. Now I’m saying prayers that he makes it on to a plane. I can’t imagine what his family back home must be feeling. #GoingtoGaza
Day #285 – Lots happening this week. Yesterday Israel released its 250-page report about its investigation of Operation Protective Edge last summer … as a preemptive move against the pending release of the UN Human Rights Council investigative report. This week marks the 8th anniversary of Israel’s siege on Gaza. Ramadan begins Sundown on Wednesday, I think. Denny Cormier and my young Palestinian friend both left Gaza. #GoingtoGaza
Day #286 – What is the difference between me wearing my “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt and Rachel Dolezal changing her hair, eye color and skin pigment to look like she is African American? Answer: I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m standing in solidarity with African Americans. I’m acknowledging the injustices. But I’m not pretending to step into their shoes and understand their life experience, their reality, their oppression. Same goes for the Palestinians. I won’t pretend to stand in their shoes, but I wonder if some zealous activists have tried to cross that line. #GoingtoGaza
Day #287 – First day of Ramadan. I de-activated my Facebook page. Started listening to the audiobook The Haj by Leon Uris. #GoingtoGaza
Days #288-289 – Going cold turkey from Facebook might not be as hard as I thought. I’m checking Twitter more often and don’t really miss the FB clutter. Today I submitted application for UN Human Rights Officer in Gaza. I really, really, really hope I’m selected. #GoingtoGaza
Day #290 – The closer one is to realizing his Personal Legend, the more the Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: fear of failure. The Alchemist #GoingtoGaza
Day #291 – Felt very good today to talk with Basya and, later, Jeremy. Connecting with family is the glue that keeps us all together! #GoingtoGaza
Day #292 – Spent the day reading the UN Human Rights Investigation into the war in Gaza last summer. Utterly devastating to read. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have felt to live through it. #GoingtoGaza
Days #293-294 – Taking a month off of Facebook is a good thing. But I may have substituted one addiction for another. Now I find myself checking Twitter every few minutes. Uh-oh! Finished reading the UN’s report on the Gaza 2014 war. Devastating words! #GoingtoGaza
Days #295 – 298 – Disconnected from Facebook is a really good thing. But it also feels good when friends from Gaza and NM reach out to me to find out if I’m OK because they’re worried that I’m not on FB. #GoingtoGaza
Day #181 – Karen Armstrong writes that war is a psychosis caused by the inability to see relationships. Seems to me that Israel is trying its best to keep its citizens blind to what’s going on the occupied Palestinian Territories. Building a separation wall. Forbidding Israeli citizens from visiting the oPT. Deleting the history of the Palestinians from Israeli textbooks. Is it official Zionist policy to nurture this psychosis?
Day #182 – Never before have I had any interest in Israeli elections. That’s changed. With the election about 3 weeks off, I’m pleased to see that Netanyahu’s polling numbers are dropping. A 4th term would be appalling. Netanyahu prides himself as the guardian of Israel’s security. He needs another assault on Gaza to help his polling.
Day #183 – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees with Obama’s negotiations with Iran. So Netanyahu will try to persuade Congress tomorrow. So imagine President Obama stopping by the Knesset tomorrow and sharing his two cents about the illegal settlements. No disrespect intended.
Day #184 – Watched Netanyahu’s campaign speech to Congress this morning. My thoughts:
1) too bad members of Congress can’t vote in Israel – I lost count of the # of standing ovations.
2) Bibi must think Obama, Kerry, and most Americans are stupid. He recycled his previous scare threats from 2002 onward about the evil monsters devouring Israel. Looked like members of Congress proved Bibi right — they ARE gullible.
3) The lightbulb turned on for me when Bibi mentioned Moses and other religious passages. We have 2 leaders in the Middle East threatening an apocalyptic vision. One has nukes and the other has global recruits. #Bibi #Isis
4) Pleased to see that the Editors of The New York Times and The Washington Post and others have panned Bibi’s speech.
Day #185 – Watching members of Congress yesterday genuflect . . . er give standing ovations . . . to the Israeli Emperor . . . er Prime Minister, I was struck with how WHITE, MALE, and OLD our leaders in DC are. They were fawning all over the old, white, male lecturing them from the podium. Heaven help us!
Day #186 – After reviewing these graphs and charts about exports/imports and the movement of people and goods into / out of Gaza, how can the Editors at The New York Times claim with a straight face that “Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza”? If they are that myopic about Israel/Palestine, in what other ways is the NYT warping reality for its readers?
Day #187 – Thinking about the women in my life and that I’m a very lucky gal. So many have had such a profound impact on the path I’ve journeyed. Especially thinking about Kay who turns 80 next week. She came into my life about 30 years ago and opened the entire spiritual universe to me through Beyond War. The key that unlocked the door.
Thinking about Luria who died in December. She came into my life about 20 years ago and shared with me her gift of listening without judgment, the first time I’ve experienced that. I hope I can model that with my friends and family. Thinking about Pam. She came into my life last year. She has shown me how the spark of an idea coupled with a ton of good will can make a big difference. I’m looking forward to learning more from Pam.
Day #188 – News posted today that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be open for two days in both directions. And an American friend reported that the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza is now open, at least for people trying to exit Gaza. Are things improving?
Day #189 – Feeling the weight and burden of all of the mistakes I’ve made and — having reached 61 years — there are many, many mistakes to remember. I wonder if the State of Israel was a sentient being, would she be feeling the burden of her mistakes? 66 years old — she has made many. She acts like a teenager telling the world she knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone. Hopefully, I’m a bit wiser and have learned from my mistakes.
Day #190 – I really, really, REALLY want to meet Raja Shehadeh from Ramallah. Palestinian Walks – Notes on a Vanishing Landscape | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza?
Day #191 – A felony, charge these 47 Senators with treason. We clearly have at least 47 members of Congress who are aligning themselves with the extremists in both Iran and Israel — they are threatening the security of the U.S. Their letter to Iran is a violation of the Logan Act. How should Obama respond?
1) ignore them and hope that the public’s condemnation will bring them to their senses.
2) publicly rebuke them and hope that is enough to bring them to their senses.
3) direct Attorney General Holder to investigate and bring charges if he deems appropriate.
I’ve never been so embarrassed to be an American.
Day #192 – A friend shared a thought-provoking article that points out the danger that many social activists on the left succumb to – a sense of self-righteousness! I’m going to keep it and mull over it because there are valuable tidbits to digest.
I’ve been surprised and shocked by the attitude of some activists working on peace & justice issues in the Middle East. Never thought of it in terms of “self-righteousness” but it fits. Now I’m worried if I exhibit some of the same behavior and attitudes.
Day #193 – There are international travelers getting across the Rafah border into Gaza. I wish I knew how they did it. I can’t think of another international border that is as difficult to cross. The border between Mongolia & China requires the train car be lifted by a crane and different gauge wheels be installed. But the government bureaucracy is a piece of cake compared to the two crossings into Gaza.
Day #194 – #AskHamas is Hamas’ attempt to use social media to answer questions from the civilized world. Uncivil Zionists are spewing venom and hatred on Twitter, exposing their deep ignorance about Hamas, Palestinians and the Occupation. People don’t realize the power their own words have in creating their reality. I feel great pity and sadness for those Zionists.
Day #195 – Walked only 4 miles today. Planned to walk 8 miles but forgot to bring water and it was a hot 82 F. Also need to remember to wear sunglasses because the sun is bright. Maybe tomorrow.
Day #196 — About to board a plane. Leaving California with mixed feelings. The last 18 months have been some of the hardest, yet most fulfilling. I couldn’t have done it without the lessons I learned in Gaza. #Samud thank you!
Day #197 – I’m a Pilgrim in my hometown and it feels a bit strange. Good friends have taken me in and I accomplished some important tasks today. Felt very honored when one friend asked me if I was interested in putting my name in the hat to fill the vacancy left by Senator Griego’s resignation. The only vacancy I’m interested in filling is the one in my heart left when I departed Gaza in May 2013.
Day #198 – Election Day in Israel and I’m watching it closely this year. The exit polls say it’s very close. Commentators on public radio say it may be weeks before we know who the next Prime Minister is. But Netanyahu has already declared victory. Just like his delusional rants about the Hamas “terrorists” … he believes if he says it often enough, it will be the truth. On another note, a Hamas official has provided answers to questions about the #AskHamas Twitter campaign that Hamas launched 5 days ago.
Day #199 – Netanyahu has won either by the skin of his teeth or by fraud. Was anyone monitoring this election?
1) Bibi drove the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution
2) A single, bi-national state is the future for the Holy Land.
3) The only question remains: by violence or peaceful means? Given Bibi’s leadership—I predict the former.
Day #199 (again) – Couldn’t sleep last night because my mind won’t turn away from the Israeli elections. WAR CRIMES and WAR CRIMINALS get elected. The institutions that I once had faith in bringing peace & justice to the Middle East (UN, ICC, EU, U.S. Congress) are incapable or uninterested.
Day #200 – I must be back-tracking just like Netanyahu. The day before the election he said unequivocally that there will be no State of Palestine while he is Prime Minister. Two days after his election, he says he still supports the 2-state solution.
Likewise, before the election, I said it would be unbelievably horrible if Netanyahu won reelection. Two days after the election, I’m convinced his re-election was the best thing that could have happened for the prospects of long-term peace & justice in the region. Netanyahu has been unmasked. Alhamdulillah!
Day #201 – A good Arab-American friend and I were talking this morning about the Israeli election. Although she is very curious about my travel to Gaza and learning more about the occupation and the plight of the Palestinians, she admits she is not particularly political. But she says she now feels it’s time to go into the streets and protest. Bibi’s racist comment about “those Arabs coming by droves to vote” was the RED LINE for my friend.
Day #202 – Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to open one’s heart and mind to the injustices in Palestine? Are some pro-Palestine activists more worthy than others? I’ve observed Palestinians condemning international activists. I’ve heard American activists criticizing their fellow activists and newbies. Seems to me, we need to treat each other the way we wish to be treated, and recognize that everyone has compassion in their hearts even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with them.
Day #203 – Friends today suggested I take a job teaching in Cairo so that I could be closer to lobby the Egyptian authorities for permission to enter Gaza. They also suggested I try to join an NGO like Doctors Without Borders who might be traveling to Gaza. Have you ever heard of anywhere else on the planet where visitors had to make such convoluted plans just to enter?
Day #204 – Smoking was considered acceptable in public at one time not so long ago. I recall sitting in the back row of an airplane with 3 middle seats for me and my two young children. On either side of us were men smoking! It was perfectly acceptable to smoke on planes and I couldn’t ask them to stop. Same with Zionism I hope.
Today it is perfectly acceptable for people to proudly announce they are Zionists, and the community accepts it (even applauds them in some circles). I hope in the not-too-distant future, Zionism will be a stigma and no one will make a public announcement even if they continue to believe such things privately at home.
Days #205-206: As a wandering nomad / pilgrim, my friends and family may find it challenging to keep track of me. We want to tie people to a place — and that is one reason “place” is so important. Today, Bernalillo County Commissioners will consider a proposal which I believe will irretrievably ruin this place in central New Mexico. I hope they deny Santolina Master Plan.
Day #207 – Feeling very frustrated. ABQ-Bernalillo County screwed up and commingled “planning” and “zoning” many years ago. We’re all paying the price today. This #Santolina master planning process is so screwed up. And those who should know better (the public planners) are clueless because they grew up with this dysfunctional system. Years ago, I tried to educate key players. Now, I just want to throw up my hands.
Thankful I’m #GoingtoGaza
Day #208 – The colonoscopy went well. Same doctor who performed it 10 years ago was my doc today. He told me he’s grown older. I told him I have too. Lolol Glad I’m in good health for my pilgrimage to Gaza.
Day #209 – Sometimes I feel sorry for myself when I tell people how difficult it is to get into Gaza. Then I think about Palestinians in Gaza who have been unable to leave, and I feel ashamed for my own troubles. Middle East Children’s Alliance is arranging a U.S. speaking tour for Dr. Mona, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but she may not be allowed to leave Gaza. This situation is so diabolical. I want to scream.
Day #210 – I must be very, very careful (and probably a lot more circumspect) about jumping to conclusions when I read the “news” from Palestine/Israel.
Case in point: several different sources are reporting that an aide to President Abbas announced that Arab countries should attack Gaza. The “aide to Abbas” is a Muslim cleric using his bully pulpit to rouse antipathy towards Hamas. Yikes!
When I was in Gaza (2012-2013) I remember hearing about the political sermons coming from the Mosques every Friday. Since nearly every male goes to listen to these Friday sermons, I wonder how much influence/power/authority these clerics have over the population.
Day #211 – When I decided to become a pilgrim months ago, I thought my travels required that I leave behind many of my passions and interests. I realized this week that that’s not true. I don’t have to physically be in ABQ to remain actively engaged in some of the issues I’m concerned about, like the Santolina master plan. It’s much easier to be a pilgrim in the 21st century than it must have been in the 18th or 19th centuries. Al-hamdulillah!
Day #212 – I’m hearing reports that a third flotilla will be sailing to Gaza during the first half of 2015. I wonder if I could join it.
I have a meeting scheduled at the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday. Going to hand-deliver my petition and try to speak with Deputy Chief of Mission Goldberger about my request to travel across the Rafah border.
January 12, 2016
Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Goldberger
Embassy of the United States of America
5 Tawfik Diab Street
Garden City, Cairo
Dear DCM Goldberger,
I’m an American citizen, currently in Cairo, attempting to return to Gaza to teach.
As you know, the U.S. Embassy in past years provided a notarized release of liability and responsibility to Americans wishing to travel to Gaza. This year, your office has refused to assist me or even meet with me to discuss this matter.
Your experience on the Israel/Palestine desk at the U.S. State Department in DC as well as your years of service as Deputy Chief of Mission in Tel Aviv would certainly provide me with very valuable insights. Perhaps you could give me some guidance about how to get permission from Israel to cross the Erez Checkpoint into Gaza.
As of Monday, January 11, 2016, 972 people have signed a petition urging the U.S. Embassy not to block Americans from traveling to Gaza. The comments are very informative about how Americans feel about the 10 year siege on Gaza. A sample of the 291 comments are reprinted below. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Americans-travel-gaza
“Freedom to travel is, or should be, a right of all Americans.”
“Dear Ambassador Beecroft and Deputy Chief Goldberger:
I am a Jewish American who is very concerned about the state of affairs in Gaza and the Middle East generally. While we can never abandon our commitment to the State of Israel, we need to adopt a more even handed policy that will truly promote peace and not just enable extreme elements in Israel if we want to stem the tide of violent Islamists. Citizens like Lora Lucero help to promote good will, inform the American public, and create pressure for a resolution of the Palestinian dispute, which has gone on for far, far too long. Please resume issuing waivers to American citizens like Ms. Lucero who wish to travel to Gaza.”
“Don’t prevent anybody form going in and out from Gaza. Stop the inhumane treatment of Gazans. They are pushing Gaza to more violence and bloodshed.”
“It’s so important to have an international presence in Gaza. Please provide documents for those Americans wanting to travel there.”
“I am appalled that Lora Lucero cannot travel to the Gaza strip BECAUSE, as I understand it, the US Embassy in Cairo refuses to grant the necessary documentation.”
“We as Americans want to be able to cross the borders, to bring aid, and let the world know what the Palestinian plight is about.”
“U.S. citizens should not be blocked by the U.S. OR Israel from traveling to the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza. Our work and witness in extremely important to Palestinians living under occupation.”
“Please assist Lora Lucero and other Americans who want to in going to Gaza and showing that Americans can help those in need. If Americans are to be truly safe and true to our professed values, we need to help make the world a better place instead of approaching everything as a military issue.”
“In November 2012, I traveled to Gaza from Egypt, and I received the written waiver from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Also, the Egyptian Press Office at that time provided press credentials to travel to Gaza, which I also received. It was so important that we (a delegation organised by Code Pink and Free Gaza) were able to witness and to share what we experienced. It is frightening to think that U.S. citizens will be denied the ability to show support and report on the situation in Gaza. The current U.S. policy is an outrage and only serves to further isolate the people of Gaza.”
“Stop supporting the blockade of Gaza Strip. Lora Lucero is a most peaceful person and she and others should be allowed entrance.”
“Palestine/Gaza is occupied territory and is being isolated by Israel. There is no valid excuse for this. Allowing teachers to help out is the least that can be done.”
“Whatever can be done to help support people in Gaza must be done – they are in an open air prison. The world needs witnesses and the US must change its , or the US will be considered a terrorist.”
“I’m ashamed of the US government’s discrimination against Palestinians and the activists who want to help those in need.”
“If an American University teacher teaches in Gaza, this is effective personal Peace work. The US Consulate in Cairo should do everything helping her to finish her job!”
“The consulate’s refusal to provide support to Lora Lucero’s decision to travel to work with the people of Gaza, who are suffering from bombs and other munitions supplied by the U.S. is an unacceptable infringement on her rights as an American and a shocking failure of our government to stand for freedom and compassion.”
“All Israelis should be banned from entering the USA until this illegal siege is ended!”
“Urge you to do all within your power to end Israeli boycott of Gaza — please.”
“Humane and productive policies should define our country. Isolating, blockading, and punishing the people of Gaza is neither. Act like an American and allow volunteers to help with the humanitarian crisis there. It’s truly the least we can do.”
“I’ve been to Gaza — perhaps the most important travel of my life.”
“As an American Jew I find your blocking people from entering Gaza abhorrent. It is reminiscent of Hitler’s behavior toward Jews.”
“Our American passport says: the cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”
“Lora Lucero and many other Americans are doing great humanitarian work by bearing witness to the reality of life in Gaza. Preventing them from travelling looks bad.”
“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo should at the very least meet with American citizens wishing to travel to Gaza, and resume the issuance of waivers to travel there.”
“Give people what they need to enter Gaza!”
“Ridiculous that I have to sign this (PETITION). Shame on you.”
“For how long are you planning to keep this inhuman practice?”
“These people have been collectively punished continuously for over a decade. Unbelievable.”
“It’s so sad that Egypt complies and buckles to Israeli pressure. Please allow those willing to dedicate their time helping humanity to enter Gaza. God bless.”
“By preventing people from going to Gaza, you’re showing the world that you condone all the hardships that the Gazans go through everyday of their lives. As long as some American citizens want to go for humanitarian purposes, I don’t think it’s wise to prevent them.”
“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is totally neglecting their responsibility to an American citizen.”
“Do let people in to areas they wish to travel. It is their life and choice. If they do not intend any illegal activities toward other human beings, let them be.”
“It is good that persons with big Heart as Lora go to Gaza, it will help people in their “open jail”!
Lora A. Lucero
As of December 15, I’ve been on my journey to return to Gaza for 470 days.
I packed up my house in Albuquerque, New Mexico and put my things into storage. I found a very responsible property manager to handle the house as a rental. I called the Egyptian Embassy for months, waiting patiently for them to give me a Visa with special security clearance to cross the Rafah border into Gaza. When they finally said “Yes, you may go to Gaza” — I jumped on a plane and flew to Cairo.
That’s when I hit a brick wall, actually many brick walls. First, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told me “No, you don’t have the right paperwork to go to Gaza (despite the contradictory information the Egyptian Embassy in DC had told me only weeks earlier). You must first get permission from your U.S. Embassy.”
I’ve been through that game before, see here. In 2011, the U.S. Embassy advised me not to go to Gaza but they sold me a notarized waiver of liability and responsibility letter for $50 USD which I carried over to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for my ticket into Gaza.
This year, staff at the US Embassy informed me that they don’t provide any assistance or paperwork for Americans wishing to travel to Gaza. Zilch! Zip! Nada! I requested a meeting with the Deputy Chief of Mission Goldberger because he’s had considerable experience with Israel-Palestine during his career. He refuses to meet with me.
I asked my U.S. Congresswoman if she would try to arrange a meeting for me with DCM Goldberger. Her office has been trying for more than a month, but no response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
I visited the Palestine Embassy in Cairo, hoping someone there might be able to help me as they did in 2013. See here. This year there’s a new Palestinian Ambassador and new rules established by the Egyptians. The Palestinian official with whom I spoke expressed an interest in my plans to return to Gaza, and understood the difficulty I’ve been experiencing. He said a Spanish delegation came to visit him a couple of months ago to make the same request, but his office couldn’t get them through the Egyptian bureaucracy. His advice to me — “talk with your U.S. Embassy”.
The Palestinian official and I finished our coffee while a clerk made a photocopy of my passport. He mentioned that my passport is the envy of everyone in the world. I asked him “why?” He responded, “Because it gives you access to everywhere, it opens doors for you.” I said, “Apparently my passport doesn’t open the Rafah gate.” He smiled and we both “high-fived” each other.
So who can I blame for denying me access to Gaza?
The Palestinians inside Gaza and outside want to help me. They’ve given me a letter of invitation but they don’t have control over their own borders.
The Americans don’t want me to travel to Gaza. The U.S. State Department routinely issues travel advisory warnings to avoid travel there. I find the following statements noteworthy.
Some U.S. citizens of Arab or Muslim heritage not on the Palestinian Population Registry or otherwise prohibited from entering Israel have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints. U.S. citizens of Arab or Muslim origin visiting the West Bank, including those not on the Palestinian Population Registry, have experienced restrictions by Israeli authorities from visiting Jerusalem or Israel.
Since October 2015, attacks on individuals and groups have occurred with increased frequency in East and West Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem, as well as various other places in the West Bank and Israel, including Tel Aviv. There is no indication that U.S. citizens have been specifically targeted based on their nationality, although perceived religious affiliation may have been a factor in some violent attacks on U.S. citizens. More than 12 U.S. citizens have been among those killed and injured in multiple attacks in 2014 and 2015. U.S. citizens involved in or observing demonstrations have sustained serious injuries. Therefore, the Department of State recommends U.S. citizens avoid all demonstrations for their own safety.
No Americans have been killed in Gaza!
I understand, and appreciate, my government’s concern about my travel plans but I find it incomprehensible that I can’t even get a meeting with DCM Goldberger in the US Embassy in Cairo.
I understand, and appreciate, Egypt’s concern about foreigners traveling across the northern Sinai to the Rafah border. That area is an active military zone where Daesh (ISIS) is openly targeting Egypt’s military and security personnel.
The silent partner in this deplorable situation is the State of Israel.
Israel controls the only other access point to Gaza in the north, the Erez Crossing. Israel refuses to allow ships to enter Gaza’s seaport, even boarding and killing internationals who tried to break the siege in 2010. Israel destroyed Gaza’s only airport shortly after it was opened and christened by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
I blame the State of Israel.
Israeli officials denied Dr. Mads Gilbert (the Norwegian doctor who volunteered at Shifa Hospital during Israel’s military operations) access to Gaza for life. They blocked Amnesty International from entering Gaza during the war in July/August 2014, and then denied access to the U.N. Human Rights Committee charged with investigating possible war crimes. I personally know journalists who have applied and been denied access across Erez into Gaza.
In all fairness, I should go through the steps of applying and seeking permission from the State of Israel to enter Gaza through the Erez Crossing. Then, and only then, can I blame Israel if I’m unable to return to Gaza.
Meanwhile, the largest open air prison in the world remains off limits to most foreigners and the U.S. government is complicit in this deadly blockade and siege for 8+ years. What doesn’t Israel want you to see?
Palestinians ask me to share their campaigns on Facebook and with friends from America, hoping that my contacts will help in their fundraising efforts. I haven’t shared for several reasons: (1) I don’t personally know the individual collecting funds and can’t vouch for them, (2) I won’t support a campaign without a proven track record, and (3) there are established mechanisms to fund many of these efforts through existing NGOs.
“This is the third small project needed to be implemented during January 2016, after the success of our previous two projects “Gaza Summer Camp” & “Our Right To Play.”We want to start another month long project for different children in Rafah-Gaza to educate them about their rights and health and how important it is for them. This will happen through the activities we will work on but we need your help to do it!This project will involve about 120 boys and girls from across the Rafah south of Gaza Strip. Over the course of the month the kids will work and play together through a series of activities to help develop both their creative faculties and teamworking skills.” https://www.gofundme.com/rafah-gaza2
Days #60 – 65 Tonight is my last night in my house. I’ve been so utterly overwhelmed with this move to Gaza that I haven’t kept my daily journal current. No way could I get my house ready for a new tenant without the help of a handyman to make repairs in the bathroom, a painter, a house-cleaner, a mover, and many friends. In the morning, my bed goes into storage and I’ll be living out of two suitcases for the next few years. #GoingtoGaza
Days #66 – 68 So now that all of my “stuff” is out of the house, the deep cleaning really made a difference. Two funny things happened.
1) We couldn’t get my very large desk out of the house (note–it came into the house when there was a large hole made in the Adobe wall before the window was installed). But the carpet cleaning man figured out an ingenious way to get it through the door! So I gave him the desk to reward him for his spatial brain. Yeah!
2) Today a yard worker helped me pick up a load of crusher fine. He was very interested in my travel to Gaza. Then I learned that he believes in the “end of times” which will come very soon. Jerusalem figures into that story. Before he left, he said he wanted to say a prayer for me on the porch. He proceeded to praise the Lord in a very loud voice for a very long time — asking the Lord to give me guidance in my travels (and a whole lot more).#GoingtoGaza
Days #69 – 71 My final days in Albuquerque were a whirlwind of meetings, farewells, hugs, and finishing everything on my TO DO list. Scattered my wonderful black lab’s ashes at the UNM Duck Pond yesterday. Feeling now like I’m closing a chapter of my life so that I can open a new one. Waiting at the airport for my flight to Phoenix. Goodbye Albuquerque. #GoingtoGaza
Day #72 – Family is the glue that keeps us human in an inhumane world. I’m with family in AZ today and feeling very blessed. #GoingtoGaza
Day #73 – Looking for prayers, strong healing thoughts, meditation and whatever other form of spiritual guidance might be helpful for a loved one in surgery today.
Day #74 – I’m sitting at the bedside of my family member in the Phoenix hospital, aware how fortunate we are to be together in this hour of need; while a Palestinian friend in Florida sits alone in anguish because he knows he can’t get to the bedside of his dying father in Gaza. The Israeli-US blockade of the Gaza Strip tears apart much more than the economic life of Palestinians. It tears about families and the social fabric of the community. #ShameonIsrael #ShameonUSA #GoingtoGaza
Day #75 – Details, details, details. Leaving ABQ requires tying up so many loose ends, such as utilities, banking, etc. I can do a lot of it via Internet. Al-hamdulillah! #GoingtoGaza
Day #76 – Well, 3 out of 4 boxes that I shipped via UPS last week arrived in CA. Might have been too much to hope for 100% delivery. Now I must spend hours (it seems) on hold waiting to see if the UPS folks can find it. #GoingtoGaza with fewer items than I thought. 😦
Day #77 – Israel issued a lifetime ban against the Norwegian doctor (Mads Gilbert) from ever entering Gaza again, citing “security concerns.” I’ve had friends who learned about a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year ban when they arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. They were immediately deported on the next flight out. I wonder if my name is on some Israeli list. An IDF soldier told me it was, but I need to get some confirmation. A friend in Gaza told me it might be easier to enter Gaza from the north (Israel) through the Erez Checkpoint, rather than from Egypt. #GoingtoGaza
Day #78 – This week Israel refused to allow the UN commission investigating Israel’s Operation Protective Edge into Gaza. Israel also imposed a lifetime ban on a Norwegian doctor from entering Gaza because he’s a security threat. Last week Israel closed ALL of the borders with Gaza (both commercial and pedestrian crossings). And Netanyahu’s government continues to say Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza. What weed is he smoking? #GoingtoGaza
Days #79 – #80 Very touched by all of the birthday greetings yesterday from family and friends (near and far). The big 61 feels much better than 60. Last year, the milestone was unsettling because I still had eye problems, and had no focus about the next chapter in my life. This year, I have good eye sight, good health, and focused on returning to Gaza. There was a lot of work involved in getting to this point. In the past 2+ months, I’ve made repairs to the house, put my things into storage, and turned the house over to a property manager. Now I feel like that albatross is off my neck, and I’m freed up to focus on returning to Gaza. Alhamdullilah! #GoingtoGaza
Day #81 – Observing from afar each side mourn their losses, praise their martyrs, and condemn the killers. The exact mirror image of each other . . . with one BIG difference that’s never mentioned in the news reports. One side is the occupier (the oppressor) and the other side is the occupied (the oppressed) resisting the occupation. Until the occupation ends, there will be no peace & security for either side. #GoingtoGaza
Day #82 – Continuing to talk to a lot of people (both inside Gaza and outside) about how to get in. No easy answers. EVERYONE says it’s very arbitrary (both at the Erez Crossing and Rafah Crossing). The fact that everyone talks about getting “in” to Gaza, rather than going “to” Gaza, indicates that everyone I’ve been talking with considers Gaza an open air prison. Is there anywhere else in the world where people are trying to get “in” ? I can’t think of it. #GoingtoGaza
Day #83 – Becoming a nomad requires thinking about many ordinary things that we take for granted in new ways. Snail mail. Think about all of the junk mail and solicitations, and other mail we get every day. As a nomad preparing to travel to Gaza, I can’t have tons and tons of mail waiting for me when I return. I’ve spent the last 3 months contacting every business and organization that sent me snail mail, and asked to be removed from their mailing list. It was quite an effort. I hope I was able to stop a lot of it. Nomad or not. We should all be cutting down on snail mail. #GoingtoGaza
Day #84 – An American friend advises me to learn more about what’s going on in the West Bank. She probably thinks my focus on Gaza has left me with a deficit. Another American friend suggests if travel to Gaza doesn’t appear feasible by mid-January, we plan to visit the West Bank instead. I AM GOING TO GAZA NO MATTER WHAT! Screw Netanyahu! Screw El-Sisi! (Or maybe they should just do us all a favor and screw each other.) #GoingtoGaza
Day #85 – The State of Israel has been a militarized country since its founding. I recall seeing many people in 2004 walking the streets of Jerusalem with large weapons hanging over their shoulders — not in uniform but I thought they might be security personnel. Restaurant doors were locked and patrons had to ring the doorbell to be admitted, and then purses were searched before we were shown to our table. From all accounts, Jerusalem is much more militarized today. And Israeli politicians have just passed a law allowing civilians to openly carry weapons. Live by the sword, die by the sword, in the Holy Land. Land of “Peace”. #GoingtoGaza
Day #86 – “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”– Ursula K. Le Guin Israel’s military occupation seems inescapable but it’s only a human construct that can fall as rapidly as a pile of bricks. Palestinians must be ready to answer the question: “what happens after the occupation?” I’m worried that the next generation of leaders are not prepared to answer that question. I haven’t seen anything written about it. #GoingtoGaza
Day #87 – Feels like I’ve embarked on the next phase of my life as a nomad. Or maybe better yet — a revolutionist. Thanks to an ABQ friend for sharing this thought-provoking piece from Chris Hedges. I’m going to spend time digesting the links at the end of the article this afternoon.http://www.opednews.com/articles/Why-We-Need-Professional-R-by-Chris-Hedges-Movement_People_Political_Power-141124-676.html #GoingtoGaza
Day #88 – Everywhere I go, I can’t help but think how different life is in the USA compared to life in Gaza. Today there were several examples.
1) Valet parking at the hospital.
2) Recycling gets picked up.
3) Electricity is on 24-7 which means the refrigerator works all day AND all night.
4) The new bike-share program was launched in Phoenix.
5) Public library has 30+ computers available for the public.
The only thing preventing Gaza from having these things is Israel’s illegal military occupation. #GoingtoGaza
Day #89 – Netanyahu may cry “terrorists” and “security” and the biggest hoax of all “Hamas” to justify his 7+ years blockading the Gaza Strip but I’m convinced that those are mere distractions from the truth. Netanyahu wants to tear families apart, he wants to destroy the fabric of Palestinian culture and he wants “those animals” to disappear. Unlike natural disasters (such as the earthquake in Haiti), Netanyahu is the architect of this man-made disaster in Gaza. He must take full responsibility. Well, maybe 95% responsibility. The U.S. and other Western governments that are subsidizing Israel’s military occupation must own up to their despicable part in this tragedy. #GoingtoGaza
Day #90 – A note to my friends in Gaza. Thank you for sharing so much with me when I was there in 2012-2013. Thank you for opening your homes to me, and educating me about the impacts of the occupation on you, your families and neighbors. Thank you for demonstrating SAMUD and showing me the importance of community and helping each other. Thank you for always treating me so graciously, and not holding my government’s destructive policies against me. Thank you for your continuing friendship. #GoingtoGaza
Day #91 – Last night sitting in the Phoenix airport ready to depart to CA, and thinking I have a lot to learn about being a nomad. Like how to travel LIGHT. One suitcase and one backpack, that’s all I can reasonably carry around the world. Americans have so much STUFF. I have a lot of things to discard to resize my lifestyle. #GoingtoGaza
Day #92 – A quandary. How do I reconcile my desire to travel to Gaza with my concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes? #GoingtoGaza